Breezy Point, MN
WX: The morning started with heavy cloud cover and intermittent sprinkles with temps in the mid 60s. By the start of class the sprinkles were gone and it was a very comfortable 65 degrees and overcast. As the morning progressed, the clouds went away and temps started climbing into the 70s. Overall a very pleasant day.
Student Overview: 10 (full). The class was populated by a mix of people with varying backgrounds and experience, with the class being primarily civilian/non-LE. All students were properly qualified to be in this class, so we did not need to delay anyone due to the need for remedial instruction.
We held a Moving Handgun course the previous day, and we had 6 of the 10 students return for the rifle class. It was nice to see student continuity with the training.
The staff bio can be found on our website @ http://www.learningfirearms.com/info/staff.html
I am new to the team, and the site has not been updated so a little about me:
I served 8 years in the US Army Reserves, deploying as a combat support MP to Iraq in 2003-2004 and left the Army as a Staff Sergeant. I have been a suburban and metro police officer for 10 years, working as a patrol officer, investigator, agency and SWAT armorer. I currently work for a major metro agency as a patrol officer, field training officer and firearms instructor. Additionally, we were accompanied by Ben and Trevor, who do our media support and assist as range safeties, as well as assist with marksmanship instruction.
Moving Rifle/Carbine is a course designed to provide students with skills relating to movement while shooting, or movement between shooting actions. The course teaches students how to move deliberately and rapidly in various directions to engage targets, and how to do this safely. Students are required to have a documented basic level of handgun instruction prior to starting this course.
The concept behind our training is that we only train in skills and tactics that we can back up with reason. We only endorse training that we believe has purpose and makes logical sense. If a student asks us why we are teaching something and we can’t justify it, we have a responsibility to evaluate that training and make changes so that we CAN justify it.
Students had to have prior training in rifle/carbine shooting that covered the fundamentals. This was not an introduction/beginner level class.
Students were requested to bring 400rds of rifle ammo, and all students shot between 400-650rounds. We anticipated a much slower pace for the class, but we had some solid shooters in class which resulted in a more steady and deliberate pace. As such, we are evaluating our round counts for future rifle courses. In juxtaposition, the Moving Handgun course from the previous day had a 400rd recommended load, and most students shot 300-400 rounds.
The class started with an intro of instructors, as well as an intro of the students. We covered basic housekeeping matters, and then discussed our philosophy that while money can be refunded, time cannot. As such, we know that we have an obligation to make this training worth peoples’ time. Dave gave an explanation behind why this class was created, which is because moving is integral with the use of a firearms. This class has reach beyond tactical use by professionals, because it translates over to things like home defense or personal protection by the armed citizen, as well as applicability to competition shooting events like 3-Gun and IPSC. There was a discussion about the differences between competition shooters and tactical shooters, and the parallels the truly do exist but tend to be overlooked. Both sides want accurate rounds on target as fast as possible. The question here is the method of delivery, and the followthrough that occurs after the rounds are delivered. There are things to be gleaned from both sides. From there, we got down to business and got onto the range.
We started with a confirmation of zero/BZO. Going into this course, students were to have their optics or sights zeroed before showing up to class. In that respect, everyone had a rifle that was printing on paper at 50yds. We used a 50yd BZO due to it being an effective zero with a very long, uninterrupted point blank range (PBR). Some students had to make some minor tweaks, but for the most part it was pretty efficient. We had everyone squared away in three 5-rd volleys. One student in this course was a LE Officer and using his department issued rifle, which was a BCM 16” rifle with Vortex Viper PST Gen2 1-6x scope. When he was zeroing, his group was slightly off. That being said, this was a duty rifle zeroed to his duty ammunition, so changing the zero of a shooting course would have been ill-advised and inappropriate. If a student decides to rezero their duty rifle at a shooting course, they should also bring duty ammo with to rezero at the end of class, or else make arrangements later to zero the rifle back with duty ammo before returning the rifle to duty.
For the first drill of the day, we conducted our 5x5 Drill for rifle. Much like the pistol course, 5 rounds are shot from each of 5 separate distances for time. This was a warm-up drill, so we did not keep track of time. The drill started at 50yds, then 40yds, 30yds, 20yds and 10yds. The target download and directions are located on our website @ http://www.learningfirearms.com/gear/targets.html . Most students had pretty good hits, and the engagement speeds were consistent with the ranges being shot, meaning that people got faster as they got closer. This was because we were informing them of what the par time was for each range.
We moved on to a review of the fundamentals of rifle employment. To start, the differences in rifle control were identified and how it varies from pistol control. While a pistol incorporates 1 or 2 points of control depending on how many hands you use, the rifle is different in that it has at least 3 contact points, with the sling offering 1-2 more contact points depending on how the sling is used. This level of contact helps control the rifle, but it also offers an opposing problem in which you can pull the rifle off target by minimal manipulations, or allow it to pull off target through lack of control. As such, we discussed the way a rifle is controlled through contact from the stock moving forward.
Stock placement was the beginning point, then we progressed on to the grip. Dave highlighted how the grip on the rifle is essentially a separated pistol grip. Moving forward, the support hand placement was discussed and students were advised about the common methods used for support hand placement. The pros and cons of different methods were discussed.
The next point was a very blunt commentary on the use of the safety. We mandate that students run the safety on their rifles at all times. The safety only comes off when the rifle is on the target, and as soon as the rifle comes off target the safety is reengaged. This is a safety factor for us, and it particularly important to use while moving. Throughout the day, we monitored students to ensure they were running their safety.
Our premise of PAD, or Presentation, Aiming and Delivery were highlighted as our cornerstone of shooting fundamentals. The concepts of grip pressure, trigger squeeze and control, and the followthrough process were highlighted. When discussing followthrough, we talked about the 360 scan and how to perform it safely.
Ready positions were discussed, and in this training we work with three primary positions. We have the low ready, which is similar to how everyone does the low ready. The second position we teach is the high ready. For us, the high ready is also known as the high port or SEAL high port ready position, where the rifle is held at an angle with the muzzle angled up, and the muzzle being level with the line of sight (LOS). The rifle is held slightly forward at an angle. This particular position is one that I have been running extensively for several years, and my agency is now pushing this position as well for CQB work. The third position is essentially a modified Sul position (muzzle down) for rifle that we use when performing scans. It keeps the muzzle clear of your feet, as well as clear of those around you.
An additional horizontal tucked position is also available, though I find the efficacy of it to be minimal and it was not stressed.
We quickly went over doing the 360 scan, and the safest way of doing so by not stepping backward. In doing this scan, we have the students pull their gun into the low muzzle-down position. The scan is then performed. During training throughout the day, I noticed that several students were shooting and immediately yanking their rifles down off the target. This effectively takes you out of the fight and requires you to go through a full aiming and trigger sequence if you have to reengage the threat. We started correcting students and reminding them to not be in too much of a hurry to come off target, because your priority should be assessing the known threat prior to further action.
In doing the scans, I saw people were either only looking briefly and maybe covering about 200-270 degrees. I started standing in peoples’ blind spots, which is typically on the strong side, as we have them turn to the weak/reaction side during their scan. Several students were clearly not looking at me at all. I started holding up fingers to see if they picked up how many fingers I was holding up. At the same time, Mike was standing directly behind some students, about 5yds back, visibly holding an opened pocket knife. We had several students from the day before, so they were keen to our hijinks. A couple people did miss our actions though. During the scans, many students were also lingering far too long looking behind, and it was apparent that some students were not sure how long they should be scanning for. The answer of course is as long as you need to, but the lack of experience led to some indecision or lack of confidence in this individual assessment of threats.
I made it a point to discuss the importance of situational awareness on two levels. The first was to make sure that students recognized that they just engaged a known threat, and that while there may be a need to scan for other threats or problems, they still need to be cognizant of the existence of the KNOWN threat. I pointed out that we are not coroners, and we don’t pronounce people dead or neutralized or stopped. For LE purposes, a suspect isn’t secured until they’re in handcuffs. In the case of a citizen, this typically isn’t applicable. Additionally, citizens have a very low likelihood of using a rifle for personal defense off of their property. Because of this, there are additional factors like the unexpected appearance of your children, etc. You have to limit your distractions or divisions of attention so that you can still remain aware of the known threat. Spending too long scanning can allow the threat to return without your control.
The second point was about what people should be looking for when scanning. Human vision is very good in certain conditions, but our vision works in different ways depending on where we are in our field-of-view (FOV). At the outer edges of the FOV, we have pretty good panoramic vision with your vision being good at picking up movement and light. As you move inward, you start to process colors and shapes better. The center of your FOV is where you you best pick up details. We as humans are not unlike predators in the wild, with eyes on the front of our faces and not on the sides. We are target focused. This is apparent when you activate the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and engage that fight or flight response. The SNS causes tunnel vision, and that is how we identify and evaluate threats. I discussed with students the need to completely scan the full 360, and then quickly process information. I pointed out that the point of the scan was to identify additional threats, and not to simply just look at things.
The 360 scan is something of a controversy today, with some people pushing it and others moving away from it. For us, we use it as a way to break up the tunnel vision and open up situational awareness. There is a real need for maintaining full situational awareness, and I’ve experienced this first-hand on numerous occasions. I work in a major metropolitan area and in many critical or major incidents, we regularly get bystanders who want to disrupt us, get involved, or simply want to gawk. We all know that people today are more interested in pulling out their cell phones and filming the incidents than they are about keeping away and letting things develop. This scan is not only for threats trying to hurt you, but threats to your ability to control the situation. Nosy gawkers and social justice warriors often cause more problems than they think they are solving, and we have to manage those problems. The caveat is that we have to be aware of their presence in order to control those problems.
An overview of zero and trajectory was given, with Dave detailing the concept of height-over-bore and mechanical offset of sights and optics. We zero at 50yds, but we do not outright mandate to students what they have to use in their own worlds. That being said, from a pragmatic standpoint the 50 and 100yd zeros are the two optimal choices for use by LE and private citizens.
We had students begin their instructional shooting by doing a numbers drill. The target we use is on the previously referenced webpage, and is the TIMM-1 Training Target. We call out a number between 1 and 4, as there are 4 number circles in the middle. The circles are approximately 4” in diameter. When we call out the number, the student must shoot that respective numbered circle with that number of rounds. So a 3 is shooting 3 rounds into the #3 circle. We started this at 25yds, and then worked our way in to the 3yd line. Upon assessing the targets, several students were hitting low. The low shots came from closer range, and students learned first-hand about mechanical offset.
The instruction into movement began with lateral movement to the left and right. We demonstrated taking two large steps and then engaging the target. Running the safety was again stressed, like in all drills. We then went into an explanation of why this movement would be necessary, and why we feel lateral movement is being taught incorrectly in various venues. There has been a push for a while that is often referred to as “getting off the x”, and has been used by various trainers. As far as Learning Firearms is concerned, this concept pushes movement for the wrong reasons. It is essentially moving for the sake of motion, and doing something without purpose is wasted effort. When you sidestep one or two or three steps, your attacker has to make very little correction to their aim if they are any distance away from you. In the time that it takes you to move, your attacker can easily adjust and reacquire you as a target. Moving 4-6 feet to you is maybe 4-6 inches of motion in the gun of the threat. This is simple math relating to angles. If you are in critical space and dodging an incoming threat, it is a different ball of wax altogether. The issue is that many of these advocates of mandatory movement don’t account for the added effort needed for the student to draw and move, track their target and engage said target. If it is not critically necessary, why do it? As such, we don’t teach people to move “just because”. In a lot of law enforcement training, we’ve seen people being taught to move out of academies. When you start talking to cops trained this way and you bring up these points about WHY they are really moving and why it is potentially wasted motion, lightbulbs start turning on. As an example, Minnesota State Patrol troopers have in the past been taught to immediately sidestep, draw and engage. Here’s the problem- when you’re standing next to a car on a traffic stop, where are you going to sidestep? Not into the car. Your only option is to step out into the traffic lane and into the path of a moving vehicle going 60mph. So again, why are we moving simply for the sake of motion? Instead, we push for students to only move when necessity dictates the need to move. Is it faster to simply hold your ground and draw? Or does slowing down your engagement time by moving create an advantage? Your actions should come with purpose, and should only be done necessarily; not procedurally.
The next step to movement was forward movement. There was discussion about concepts of movement, and previous theories on how to walk that includes simple walking from the athletic stance, the 80’s era duckwalking and so forth. We did dry runs with unloaded pistols so that students could try walking on their own and see what their pistols were doing. They were able to see the movement of the sights over the target.
At this point, students were informed about the concept of First Best Sight Picture (FBSP) or First Acceptable Sight Picture (FASP). When moving or standing in an unsupported position, the first best or acceptable sight picture you get is likely going to be the best sight picture you will get. After that, your sights will being to wander and you will struggle to regain that sight picture. It’s never going to get any better than that initial FBSP, so the shooter needs to be prepared to break the shot when that moment arises. With optics, lack of adherence to the FBSP concept results in people “chasing the dot”. This in turn results in missed shots.
The next step to movement was forward movement. There was discussion about concepts of movement, and previous theories on how to walk that includes simple walking from the athletic stance, the 80’s era duckwalking and so forth. We did dry runs with unloaded rifles so that students could try walking on their own and see what their rifles were doing. They were able to see the movement of the sights/optics over the target. For forward movement while shooting, we discussed how despite the way we walk, our upper body should remain the same as how we normally shoot as if we were still. Making some drastic change just for moving will change how you control the rifle and deliver the rounds, and it becomes a new dynamic that students would need to adapt to unnecessarily.
With that, we broke for lunch. At the tail end of lunch-which we provide-we did a review of the morning’s lessons. Each student was prompted to identify something they noticed, something they had a question about, something they learned, something they didn’t like, or simply just something they thought about. This opened some excellent avenues of discussion, and I think the knowledge retention for the morning’s lessons increased. This also served to get students snapped out of the post-meal food coma and primed back into the training mindset for the afternoon. At this point, there was still 5 hours of training left in the day since we went until 1800hrs.
To start, we did the 5x5 Drill in reverse, starting at the 10 and working back to the 50yd line. At the tail end of it, I noted to students that their groups opened up and that they appeared to be shooting too fast for the longer distances. I asked them if they noticed, and several students commented that they were still in the close range mentality for the drill and forgot to slow down to make good hits. Essentially, they outdrove their headlights. They got going too fast for their skill level, and the targets showed the results. This reinforced the need for shooters to always be cognizant of their skill level at a particular range. The reason for this drill was the get students warmed back up, and doing it in reverse yielded the result that we intended, which was for students to recognize the need for a balance of speed and accuracy.
Faster movement was then implement and we worked with the sprint and plant method of moving. To start this, we demonstrated ways to run with a rifle while keeping muzzle discipline. This included holding the rifle downward in a controlled modified Sul position, or holding the rifle up in a high ready/high port position. A quick comment was then placed on a muzzle-up temple index hold of the rifle. Lastly, we talked about the one-handed football carry that is becoming more common. My agency pushes this carry method, and I know that Pat McNamara has been teaching this carry method for years. I have personally ran several blocks in an urban area using the football carry for my patrol rifle during a multiple shooting incident. It’s a very effective way to run and move with a rifle, and I feel it lets you run the fastest due to allowing you to keep a natural running stride.
On the command to move, students ran 10 yards to the designated line and planted down to get ready to engage the targets. At the command of threat, students were to engage the threat. We did dry runs first with empty rifles. Once students had the motions down, we broke into odd/even firing positions and had odds up first to do their live runs. The evens stood behind the line and watched as one line did numerous repetitions. During this training, the standard sequence to call “Move” and then when they planted on the firing line, to yell “Threat” to get them to engage. However, we changed this up occasionally by yelling “Threat” first. A couple people jumped the line and began running, and we immediately called a ceasefire for safety. We stressed to the students the need for attention to detail. As another “trick”, we had one student intentionally start shooting after moving, without being given the “Threat” command. This was done to see if other people started shooting as well, and sure enough they did. Students were told about the concept sympathetic fire, and how it has resulted in people being involved in “bad shoots” where people/officers/soldiers only shot because they saw/heard others shooting. It was stressed that to legally use your rifle in defense, you need to justify why you fired. Doing it sympathetically is not a justifiable reason. It was a resounding lesson that resonated well with the students.
During this run and plant training, it was pointed out to students that when they landed and planted their feet, they were in an odd stance many times. Having a modern athletic stance for your shooting helps immensely with engaging a target while not having your optimal foot positioning. This highlighted why we teach students a modern athletic stance versus some pre-determined specific stance like isosceles or other.
The next phase was doing the sprint and plant in reverse. Students were again made to clear their rifles, and dry runs were done to get students used to this. We had students face the target, then turn and run to a farther distance, plant, turn around, and engage the targets. For this, we stressed that students maintain very strict muzzle discipline and be sure to run their safeties. When it came time to do live runs, we did the odds/evens lines again. The line sitting out was moved off to the side of the range so that nobody was up-range of the shooters as they ran. 10 repetitions were done, and then the lines switched. During all of this time, we made sure to monitor muzzle location. Some students got sloppy, but the muzzles were able to be controlled and students were notified when they started losing that awareness.
We moved to a more complex drill in the form of the Box Drill, which uses four large plastic barrels to set up the corners of a box/square. We started with students running from point to point and shooting from the points. Students found this to be fluid and efficient. Muzzle awareness and discipline was stressed, as was running the safety. In fact, we harped on the students constantly about manipulating the safety. One student was disengaging his safety when he was bringing his rifle to his shoulder, which was before he was getting his rifle on target. I discussed with this student the need to keep the safety on until he got his sights on-target. We encouraged students to push their speed to induce more stress, and students responded well.
For the next phase of the box drill, we had students switch to shooting on the move. This presented three different problems. The first was how to move the feet while walking laterally by not crossing the feet. The second was how to shoot when the target was on the strong side, which required students to twist their body, or to face the target and sidestep. We demonstrated the methods students can use to engage targets with a rifle that is on their strong side. My preferred method is turning the rifle sideways and twisting the torso, as this tends to allow the smoothes engagement. We did present the possibility of doing a shoulder transition, and students were shown how to perform one. The third challenge was making the students actually walk backwards. For this portion, we stood behind them and spotted them for safety to ensure nobody tripped and fell. Students became significantly slower when doing this. As we had students do this drill multiple times, we encouraged students to try shoulder transitions. Again, running the safety selector was stressed and mandated during these transitions, as well as during all reloads.
Upon reviewing the drill, students recognized that moving to shoot is faster than shooting on the move. The question was then asked by instructors as to which is ideal, and of course the correct answer is “it depends”. Realistically, we have to adapt to our environment and make the decision based on the individual circumstances.
We set up our Pinball Drill, which is two barrels spaced 5yds apart. Students run and plant and shoot two HITS on steel plates 50yds away, then run to other, shoot, and repeat for a total of 5 shooting instances. This stressed the students physically, and it also called for shot accountability and target assessment. Once students had this down, we opened up the barrels so that they were about 10-15yds apart. There were two sets of barrels. We ran this drill, and then turned it into a competition with our staff member Trevor taking the win by a fraction of a second.
We set up a zig zag drill, which is offset barrels that students run back and forth to in order to engage steel targets. We set up two sides, and one side had steel targets. The other side used Dave’s famed RC car that we mount a target to. This target was driven around at speed, and students got a very good understanding of how accuracy degrades when shooting at a moving target.
The final drill of the day was the 5x5 Drill for time. Only one student managed to make all hits in time at 50yds, but at the 40yd line he dropped a shot and was out. With that, the day was complete. We gathered the students together and handed out certificates. We also went over the day and had a good debrief with students. We talked with students about the need to change our recommended round count, and that they were good enough to blow our initial 400rd count recommendation out of the water due to no need for remedial training.
As a final observation, I would have liked to increase our shot accountability on paper. Most shots were hitting well, but we still had room for students to shoot better. This is something we are evaluating for future courses, as well as how we will enforce this standard.
Gun/Gear Thoughts and Issues:
One student was running a Huldra rifle, which is piston operated. There have been comments made over the years how piston rifles do not require much lubricant, if any. Well, our range is in a rock/sand quarry, and it has a very prejudicial way of punishing you if you don’t lube your rifle sufficiently. On one stage mid-afternoon, the Huldra began to run very slow. The bolt carrier was noticeably dry. The student was advised to get lubricant on the rifle. We hand out sample bottles of Slip2000 EWL to all students, as well as provide EWL at our fiddle tables for lubing guns during the day. An application of EWL did the trick and got the rifle back up and running. Regardless of what rifle you use, you need to properly lube your rifle.
The rifles were a mix of things, and numerous rifles were FrankenARs. For the most part, these guns were quality builds and nobody really had any issues. The factory guns were a mix, but there were BCMs, HK, a Midwest Industries gun, and the aforementioned Huldra which was fine after the lubing event.
Optics were varied. Only two students opted to run LPVOs. One student had his agency issued rifle with Vortex Viper PST Gen2 1-6x scope. That was a nice scope, and noticeable improvement over the Gen1 PST. I found that the red dot was still not as bright as the Razor HD Gen2 1-6x, however. It was daylight visible, but certainly not “red dot bright” like the Razor. Another student ran the new Vortex StrikeEagle 1-8x. I spent a moment looking through this optic, and it’s certainly a viable optic in the “budget” category of LPVOs. In making an honest assessment of the scope, it is what it is. Vortex has been up-front about the quality of this scope, and there were obvious optical deficiencies through the magnification range. It wasn’t bad per se, but the clarity was lacking. The illumination was certainly not daylight visible. In overcast skies in the morning, I could barely see a faint red glow at max illumination. This optic excels at long range shooting using the BDC reticle. The key to look at this is that it’s a $450 1-8x optic, and you should regard it as such. If you were looking for a low-budget LPVO, it’s a decent option. If you were willing to spend a little more, I’d highly recommend that you do.
The gun equipped with the Viper PST Gen2 also had the offset Magpul BUIS. These sights worked well, and the student got in reps with the irons as well as with his LPVO. Those sights are a good purchase, and I would call them a necessity for any duty/combat rifle.
I have a Kahles K16i, and I used to run a Leupold Mark6 1-6x. Dave runs several LPVOs, to include a Vortex Razor HD Gen2 1-6x, Trijicon AccuPoint TR24 1-4x, and Trijicon AccuPower 1-8x. I’ve also tried the “mid-level” LPVOs like the Leupold VX-6 1-6x and Burris XTR-II 1-5x. There is a definite progression of optical quality as you spend more money. Obviously, you as the shooter have to stay within your budget. That being said, it’s worth it to make your pocketbook hurt a little bit and step up to a higher grade of optic. It will pay dividends.
Most students were running Aimpoint red dots, and they ranged through the T1, T2, CompM3 and PRO. One student was running a Holosun Micro red dot. This optic ran the whole time without issue. Sig ElectroOptics uses Holosun to make their red dots, and my agency has authorized them for officer use for over a year. Thus far, we haven’t had any documented issues with them. I am not going to go so far as to endorse these Holosun red dots, but they’re not the Chinese junk you usually see that falls apart when you just looked at it the wrong way. I would say that they a solid contender in the budget red dot category, and compete with the Bushnell TRS-25 and Vortex SPARC.